Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday moved swiftly to react to the revelation made by the liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who India is desperately trying to extradite from the UK.
Once again the finance minister chose Facebook to post his reaction in response to Mallya’s bombshell. In his response, while Jaitley did not deny meeting Mallya or the latter’s offer of settling the bank loans, the finance minister accused the billionaire businessman of abusing the House privileges.
He wrote, “Since he was a Member of Rajya Sabha and he occasionally attended the House, he misused that privilege on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room.
“He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that ”I am making an offer of settlement”. Having been fully briefed about his earlier “bluff offers”, without allowing him to proceed with the conversation, I curtly told him ‘there was no point talking to me and he must make offers to his bankers’.”
Jaitley’s response came after his political detractors began to ask him to respond to Mallya’s huge revelation. One of them was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who asked, ““Why did the Finance Minister hide this information till now?” His subsequent tweet read, “Absolutely shocking.”
Kejriwal’s other tweet read, “PM Modi meets Neerav Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know.”
Now the question will be asked as to why Jaitley did not disclose his the content of his conversation with Mallya before even if this had taken place inside the parliament premises. Clearly, Mallya was declared as a defaulter even then. Also, if he felt a declared defaulter of bank loans to the tune of thousands of crores was trying to use his privilege as a Rajya Sabha MP to influence a cabinet minister, he ought to have informed the House about it or shared the information with the media.
He did not do either of these and chose to recall the event only after Mallya’s revelation appeared to have left him embarrassed.
In fact, as early as June this year, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Subramanian Swamy had hinted about Mallya’s meeting with an unnamed but powerful person in the Narendra Modi government before he left India. In his tweet posted on 12 June this year, Swamy had written, “Mallya could not escape from India because of a strong Look Out Notice for him at airports. He then came to Delhi and met someone who was powerful enough to change the Notice from blocking his departure to just reporting his departure. Who was that person who dilute this LON?”
Mallya could not escape from India because of a strong Look Out Notice for him at airports. He then came to Delhi and met someone who was powerful enough to change the Notice from blocking his departure to just reporting his departure. Who was that person who dilute this LON?
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) June 12, 2018
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has not reacted on this startling revelation, but one wonders how he can continue to function as the finance minister. Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha sumemd up the mood of the nation, when he tweeted, “Not only the finance minister, the entire BJP must come clean on its relations with Vijay Mallya.”